Carbajal v. Precision Builders, Inc.: Employees and Independent Contractors in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys understand that questions will often arise as to whether an injured worker was an employee or an independent contractor.

770382_scaffold.jpgThe North Carolina Industrial Commission has outlined the requirements related to workers’ compensation insurance when dealing with independent contractors.

In Cabajal v. Precision Builders, Inc., the Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled on the issue of whether the injured worker was an employee for the purposes of workers’ compensation eligibility. The worker was allegedly injured while he was on scaffolding that was blown over. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits, claiming that he was an employee of the construction company.

The construction company denied the workers’ compensation claim, asserting that the injured worker was not an employee, but rather an independent contractor who is not eligible to receive benefits.

In determining whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee, the court will look to a variety of factors. Some of these factors include the nature of the relationship between the parties, who supplies the tools and equipment needed to do the job, whether the worker is doing the same or similar jobs for other people, and the amount of control the company has over how the worker accomplishes the job.

For example, if you pay somebody to paint your house, you normally tell him what color you want. The painter will usually show up with his own tools and equipment, does the job, gets paid, and leaves. You normally do not provide any of the equipment he will be using, and you do not tell him how to use a paint roller or what wall to start on first. If you fire him, he probably has many other houses to paint. It was not as if he was painting your house as his full-time job. This worker would probably be an independent contractor who is not entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits if he is injured on the job.

On the other hand, if you owned a factory and hired people to work there, you provided all of the tools and equipment, and trained workers on exactly how to do a specific task, the worker would probably be an employee. If you fire the employee, he would be out of work entirely and have to look for a new job. This person would probably be considered an employee who is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if injured on the job.

As in Cabajal, the determination of whether someone is an employee or independent contractor can get more complicated when dealing with construction workers. Here, the worker was given an hourly wage, the company provided tools, he was told when he could go take his lunch, and he was treated like an employee in every aspect of the job except being provided with benefits. The lower court held that the worker was an independent contractor, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, finding that the excessive amount of control over the worker made him an employee who was eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Recourses:

Carbajal v. Precision Builders, Inc., July 1, 2014, Oklahoma Suprem Court.

More Blog Entries

Misclassification: North Carolina Proposes New Penalties for Employers, June 13, 2014, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

Contact Information